Potential women leaders who met at a leadership forum in Jeddah heard rousing words from female role models who had already made it.
As the long-anticipated day when Saudi women will be allowed to drive approaches in June, the third Women in Leadership forum, organized by Abdul Latif Jameel Company, took place in Jeddah on Wednesday, at the Hussein Jameel conference hall.
The event follows two earlier Women in Leadership forums held in Riyadh and Alkhobar in March.
The forum gathers Saudi female business leaders, decision-makers, and women who have achieved success to share their experiences and support other women to be effective leaders.
Guest speakers at the forum who shared their experiences included Njlaa Sifder, the president of Nafisa Shams Academy set up to train and empower women, Hisham Lari, general director of ride-hailing company Careem, Fatimah Batook, owner of Studio 55 gym, and Al-Anoud Yamani, professional make-up artist and trainer.
The host of the event Hatoon Qadhi, Saudi YouTube star, assistant professor and columnist, told Arab News: “Women in leadership is not a new topic, it has never disappeared, but it is now reviving again since women are to drive soon, so the event is gathering both women driving and women in leadership in all fields.”
Qadhi said that the most important thing Saudi women needed was not to feel pressured.
“I can see a lot of pressure imposed on Saudi woman by media. There is a general feeling that is pushing women to believe that they have to do something special. However, what we always wanted and called for is that women should have a wider range of opportunities.
“Women should not get questioned about their own decisions and choices; she should not be asked to leave her comfort zone and do something she does not want to do. Real empowerment of women is to let them choose what pleases them for themselves.”
Fatimah Batook told Arab News: “Women were always in the driving seat, she was not physically driving, but she was leading her own life, and her family’s. She is a superwoman because no matter how little she had, she would always find a way to achieve what she aspires to.”
Batook added: “The Saudi woman needs to be bold, ready to take the first step, because there are so many fields that women do not exist in, and they need to prove themselves. She needs the courage and awareness of herself, who is she, where she belongs, and what values she was brought up with.”
One of the forum guests, Fatimah Al-Maghrabi, 45, told Arab News: “I came here with my daughters, I have enjoyed listening to the speakers and, I am truly excited to drive soon.”
Ibtihal Abdulrahman, 29, another forum guest, said: “As a social worker and a coach, I like to engage in activities and events taking place in my environment, especially when it is about driving.
“I strongly believe that women have the right to be independent and own and control their vehicles to be able to fulfill their own needs.
“I am excited to learn how to drive ... I believe it is a basic skill we all need to have.”